Part 128: Broccoligate!

Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. I hope you’re all as well as you can be. I’ve got a few things to talk about this week. I’m going to come to the broccoli scandal shortly, but I have some other stuff related to autism to talk about, first. Actually, I’m going to talk about talking…

Like many of you reading this, I’m sure, I get annoyed by the constantly deployed trope that depicts autistic people as deficient in various ways. I’ve talked before about how autistic people are supposed to not understand turn-taking in conversation, and yet I’m often baffled when watching conversations between non-autistic people who keep talking over each other. Some of the most pleasant, turn-taking conversations I’ve had have been with other autistic people. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about a short conversation I had with a non-autistic person today. I had to ask this person a simple yes/no question, but I was wary. I know how this person handles conversations, and I really didn’t fancy going down one of their rabbit holes. So, I put a lot of thought into how to ask my question, and ensured I phrased it in the most unambiguous way possible. I might as well not have bothered, because the reply I got was a veritable minestrone of tangentially related facts followed by exploratory questions that demonstrated this person just hadn’t really listened to my question. I have no particularly insightful observations about this interaction, I just wanted to mention it. Moving on…

I got into a different conversation recently with a friend who was bemoaning the state of GP care in the UK. I’m old enough to remember a time when you could rock up to a GPs surgery and just wait to be seen. When the GP had seen all their waiting patients, they would make any necessary house calls to patients too ill to come out. In those days, my GP knew me, and was concerned about my health. These days, GP surgeries seem to do everything they can to put you off contacting them. It started with non-medically qualified receptionists triaging appointments, then moved to requests having to be made by phone or online, to making GP websites as un-user-friendly as possible. My latest minor health niggle has been diagnosed by someone – god knows who – at the surgery on the strength of one slightly out-of-focus photo. I haven’t actually spoken to a GP at all about the issue. I simply received a terse message from a nameless someone at the surgery saying a prescription had been sent to my pharmacy. No diagnosis given. The message didn’t even tell me what the prescription was – I didn’t find out until I picked it up from the pharmacy. This is, pardon my language, fucking appalling healthcare. The reasons the UK’s provision of GP healthcare has reached these lows are purely political and ideological. This isn’t a politics blog, so I’m going to leave it there, but if you know, you know. Unfortunately, the poor state of GP care has left me wondering how to tackle a different problem which, in years gone by, I would probably have raised with my GP first…

The problem in question is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have essentially diagnosed myself with this, which will, I’m sure, raise sardonic smiles from those fools who casually claim, We’re all a bit OCD, aren’t we? As far as I’m concerned, those claims are as harmful as those that say, We’re all a bit autistic, aren’t we? No, you’re not all fucking autistic, and no you’re not all dealing with OCD. Trust me, if you were, you’d really know about it. My OCD is probably not as bad as many people suffer, but it is causing me distress. This has slowly developed over years, but reached the level of true OCD a few months ago. Since having the major disruption of moving home, the issue has worsened. It was there before, certainly, but it has intensified exponentially over the last few months. Me being me, I’m looking for a cause; there has to be a reason this has transpired – something I can fix. What correlates with the intensification of the issues I’m experiencing? The only thing I can think of is the drug Mirtazapine. However, I’m very aware that correlation does not equate to causation, so I need to not conclusion-jump this. OCD is strange. I have a suspicion it exists on a continuum (note the way I beautifully and correctly body-swerved the term spectrum), one end of which enables useful habits and behaviours, but which at the other end is problematic, distressing and debilitating. Part of my issue is that my OCD rituals are based on what – to me – seems like common sense. But it exhausts me, and I don’t see other people behaving this way. It’s getting to the stage where I might need professional help, but I have no confidence in approaching my GP – see above. If anyone reading this blog has any experience of Mirtazapine doing the opposite of what it’s supposed to do regarding OCD, please get in touch. With that somewhat sombre topic out of the way, let’s have a jolly good laugh about the latest “autism treatment” tomfoolery I’ve come across. Yes, it’s… BROCCOLIGATE!

In the movie Spider-Man 2, when Tobey Maguire’s webslinger tells a few wide-eyed kids his abilities come from working out, getting plenty of rest, and eating green vegetables, I had to laugh. It reminded me of Popeye and his spinach. Yes, of course, let’s encourage kids to eat green veg as part of a healthy diet; that’s sensible. But let’s be clear, there are no real superfoods. There is just food; some more nutritious than others. Anyway, imagine my surprise when Twitter’s actually autistic community offered up – with a combination of bewilderment and disgust – links to various sources discussing broccoli – yes, broccoli – as a potential “treatment” for autism. The particular article I read (from some online outlet called Patient Talk) was filled with person-first language and assumptions of autism as deficiency,. I get sick (no pun intended) and tired of people treating autism as an illness, but oh, my gosh, this article just took it for granted that autism needs treatment. See the screenshots, on which I’ve circled references to autism symptoms and severity of autism, and aberrant behaviour, for God’s sake. For any new or casual readers not familiar with the issues, let me make it clear: Autism is not an illness. there are no autism “symptoms”, and to refer to “severity” of autism is to grossly misrepresent what autism is. Autism does not – I repeat: does not – need treatment. The article is pretty appalling, but before I tell you the really funny thing about it, have a look at the screenshots…

So, depending how strong your constitution is, the above is either stomach-churning or hilarious. But the funniest bit is still to come – and I don’t even mean that this (hah!) “study” involved a tiny number of “participants” (the true participants seemingly being family or carers of autistic people – don’t even get me started on that). No, the really funny thing is… this is not even recent news. I don’t know why the article suddenly appeared now on Twitter, but this content shit is old. The earliest mention I can find is 2014, but to be honest I didn’t look that hard. Various websites that report on the study don’t make it obvious when their articles were written, but 2014 looks a good bet. So broccoligate 2023 doesn’t really exist, then, right? It’s old hat. Or is it?

2014 was long before I even suspected I was autistic, so it’s no wonder the reports passed me by back then. It’s so old now, we can just ignore it, right? I mean, maybe the people who wrote those articles have been educated since then, and now wouldn’t dream of writing about autism in such offensive and inaccurate terms. Let’s just brush it away and forget about it. Except… wait a minute. The fact that this emerged on Twitter in 2023, nearly a decade on from its inception, just shows how the internet is forever. If you say it online, it sticks around. So, how many unwary folk are still coming across this utter drivel, and taking its assumptions (symptoms, deficiency, aberrance, etc) as factual and acceptable? It scares the crap out of me that garbage like this is still being circulated around the web. (Some smartass will now claim I’m just adding to and perpetuating the problem by writing about it on this blog, but that won’t wash – I think I’ve been overtly critical here; there can be no mistake.) I can just imagine some well-meaning auntie or uncle stumbling across the article online and sending a link, with the message, “Have you seen this? We should get [insert autistic child’s name here] to eat broccoli to help with their autism!” And no doubt, if the autistic child was served up a plate of broccoli and gave it the thumbs-down, it would be seen as a sign of aberrant, autistic behaviour from a kid who just wants their comfort food.

I quite like broccoli, but I’m going to lay off it for a while, which is utterly pointless as a protest, but whatever. I’m going to get a cheese sandwich, now.

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That’s all for this week. Until next time, take care.


You can find The Autistic Writer on all your favourite social media channels

Why Do I Write This Blog?

When I first found out I was autistic, I was a middle-aged adult and I knew nothing about autism.  I quickly learned that there was a serious shortage of information and resources for adults in my situation.  With this blog, I aim to inform about autism and autism-related issues as I learn, hopefully helping people who are on a similar journey of discovery.  Like anyone who writes a blog, I want to reach as many readers as possible; if you like what I’m doing, please share it with your friends and followers.  I will never hide this blog behind a paywall, but running the website does incur costs. If you would like to support, feel free to make a small contribution at BuyMeACoffee.Com.

You might also be interested in David Scothern’s blog, Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, which covers a range of topics including mental health issues and financial independence.

One thought on “Part 128: Broccoligate!

  1. I got exactly the same reply from a GP with him in a consultation- “eat more broccoli” when I was trying to work through what I now know are autism-based co-morbidities and mental health issues. I was so incensed I had to just stand up and leave. I never spoke to him again. It has taken me until the age of 49 to at least be listened to…. I bloody love broccoli by the way too.


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